See the four-minute Video and we
recommend you see the in-depth Health
A report by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) states:
Potential health effects from exhaust emissions, fugitive dust,
and noise range from mild to serious. and,
For exhaust emissions, the number of people
potentially impacted is as high as the population of the state, differing
within air basins. (ARB Report).
|Fugitive Dust Drift
distribute debris and Particulate Matter (PM) for long
distances. PM consists, in part, of fine dust particles, dried
bird and other animal feces, pesticides, insecticides and other chemicals,
street dirt that can contain lead and carbon, and allergens such as
molds, pollen, and animal dander. PM is particularly harmful
to children, the elderly, and those with cardio vascular and pulmonary
problems, including asthma. Once airborne, there is no way to
The medical literature shows
that . . . airborne particulate matter affect[s] lung function, and
that chronic exposure to air pollutants can impair lung function permanently.
Road dust contains lead at highly toxic levels and up to 20 known
allergens. In residential areas of L.A., road dust contributed
5-12% of the allergens in the air. (ARB
Source p. 24) and ("Danger:
Road Dust" by Henry Fountain)
Blowers often redistribute this road dust, especially when used in
or near gutters and on streets.
|Emissions and Fuel Spills
|Due to stricter emission
standards, manufacturers have reduced CO emissions, even further than
required by the standards. A mandated use of California Reformulated
Gasoline reduced the amount of benzene in gasoline, and general engine
emissions have been reduced by 70% since 1990. But, these are
still higher than the 1986 recommendations for a healthy
The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a report blaming
leaf blowers for spewing 5.6 tons of hydrocarbon emissions per
day into the region of Los Angeles. Gasoline Lawn Edgers,
which also use two-stroke engines, are responsible for 7.6 tons and
lawn mowers are responsible for 7.4 tons per day."(96.11.1)
. . . more smog comes from Californias homes than from
commonly cited sources such as oil refineries and service stations..
. . By themselves, gasoline-powered lawnmowers, leaf blowers and other
utility tools emit a significant amount of VCOsmore than all
the aircraft in the South Coast . . . millions of gallons of fuel
are spilled a year while home gardeners are refueling their lawn mowers
and leaf blowers. (97.12.1)
In a 1993 South Coast Air Basin emissions inventory, lawn and garden
equipment (including lawnmowers, edgers, trimmers, leaf blowers and
chain saws) produced about 14 tons per day of VOC, 0.5 tons
per day of NOx, and 108 tons per day of CO emissions. (97.6.4).
The Air Resources Board Report explains that Exhaust emissions
from leaf blowers consist of the following specific pollutants of
concern: hydrocarbons from both burned and unburned fuel, and which
combine with other gases in the atmosphere to form ozone; carbon monoxide;
fine particulate matter; and other toxic air contaminants in the unburned
fuel, including benzene, 1,3-butadiene, acetaldehyde, and formaldehyde.
monoxide is a product of incomplete combustion and can be a hazard,
stated a representative for the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute,
The Environmental Protection Agency says lawn & garden equipment
produce 6.8 million tons of ozone & carbon monoxide annually.
days when ozone concentrations were above the federal standard of
.12 parts per million . . . there were 30% more asthma attacks. .
John Dunlap, Chair of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), is
quoted as pointing out, regarding non-road engines, that manufacturers
sometimes claim this equipments contribution to air pollution
is so small that its a waste of time and money to control .
. . Motor vehicles account for about half of Californias air
emissions. The rest comes from many small sources, many of which
have groups arguing they are too insignificant to regulate.
But ignoring these smaller sources means ignoring a significant segment
of Californias emissions problem. (98.3.4
p.17) And, we note that California also has strict regulations
regarding vehicle emissions.
Gasoline two-stroke engines, also used for motor boats and Jet Skis,
contaminate . . .with carcinogenic benzene and toluene. . .
.A by-product of burning oil is polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, one
of the principal carcinogens found in cigarette smoke. . . .The amount
of unburnt oil these stinkers put into our lakes, rivers and drinking-water
reservoirs every year is 15 times what the Exxon Valdez spilled
according to the Sierra Club (98.1.1).
Blowers are putting this same pollution into the air of our neighborhoods.
Noise Free America provides
information on health effects of noise through their website and
their Ask the Expert, a psychology professor who will also help
mediate noise-related disputes.
The most frequent complaint Americans make about their neighborhoods
is noise (98.3.6)
In a press interview, Stanfords Science, Technology and Society
Program professor and chairman Robert McGinn, referenced studies
that showed . . .noise levels in the United States hurt the
physical, psychological, cognitive and emotional well-being of people
Theres little doubt that noise makes some people aggressive
and less able to handle frustration, . . . and Excessive
noise has an effect on gastrointestinal functions. It can
cause blood pressure to rise, and can cause severe headaches.
Obviously, it can make some individuals very nervous.
Manufacturers of blowers are aiming for a maximum of 65 dB, by ANSI
standards, measured at a distance of 50 feet. They claim this
is conversation level, but dont point out that
it is loud conversation level. Few people would like even
a normal conversation going on next to their bed while they try
to sleep; next to their desk while they try to work; or next to
an open window while they try to put a child down for a nap.
All of these activities are common in a residential neighborhood.
The Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter
wrote to their Department of Health, The rules should
be expanded to include commercial and landscaping activities.
and The section on Noise prohibited should also
be amended: No person shall operate nor shall its owner permit
the operation of an on-site vehicle, leaf blower, construction equipment,
or device, with a motor or exhaust system or both, without a muffler.
Psychological Mood Basic Human Needs:
one of the basic human needs. It can assist in reaching a state
of relaxation, which, in turn, leads to invigoration. It promotes
meditation and contemplation, which can lead to enlightenment.
All of these can lead to contentment. (Source)
Certain negative factors may seriously affect moods,
attitudes and eventual response to the environment including
distress, frustration, fatigue, anger. (Source)
These are reactions many people have to the use of leaf blowers on
properties other than their own, and where they have no control.
Studies indicate people living or working in noisy areas are less
helpful to those in need, have far fewer friends than those in quieter
areas, and have more social conflicts. (Source).
Noise makes it even more difficult for the hearing impaired to distinguish
words. It may also cause them discomfort or pain.
Blower users, themselves, are most at risk for hearing loss.
Along with properly fitted safety equipment such as respirator face
masks and wrap-around goggles, adequate ear protection is recommended
by all responsible manufacturers of blowers.
Due to resistance to their use, noise restrictions and bans, a few
manufacturers have lowered decibel levels to as low as 65dB.
Besides engine noise, including pitch and frequency, air velocity
noise must be considered, along with frequency of exposure for bystanders.
At speeds up to 9,000 revolutions per minute, backpack blowers can
be much louder than a much larger automobile engine.(98.1.12)
Manufacturers expect that redesigned air intake systems will reduced
the high pitched whine. One quarter of the population has an
extreme sensitivity to high-pitched noises, which trigger the nervous
systems startle response, and uncontrollable fight
or flight feelings and physical reactions result.(98.11.1).
Small children have been observed taking flight, right into the center
of a street, startled by the sudden or unexpected start up or acceleration
However, noise levels are measured at a 50-foot distance from the
machine under testing conditions which may not relate to the configuration
of brick and stucco houses located just five feet from cement walls
that is common in Los Angeles neighborhoods. (Communication
& Noise dB Levels).
The 65 dB promoted by blower supporters as being only normal
conversation level is considered a loud conversation by sound
experts. To those who are not a part of this "conversation,"
it is disruptive. Recognized as a serious problem, where airplane
noise levels within the flight path reach 65 decibels as shown by
continuous monitoring equipment near Los Angeles Airport, homeowners
are eligible for soundproof funding.
|Quality of Life
According to an industry
magazine article, this concern has been gathering momentum
for 20 years and become national in scope and can no
longer be ignored. Blower problems are now so common
that they are even making their way into popular culture,
such as newspaper political cartoons and television situation comedy
and television reports. The industry is worried that
the future will bring time and location restrictions or bans on
string trimmers, hedge trimmers and any other 2-cycle powered
This may be why industry forces gathered together to fight, first,
the Los Angeles ban, then at the California State level to attempt
to revoke all locally-enacted bans. They attempted to set
state noise levels, from which no lower level could be required
by local municipalities.
The issue, to some, is the inability to use whatever tool they choose,
wherever they choose to use it, and the possibility of economic
change, which, if not managed well, would affect their quality of
life. Blower supporters ask why pick on blowers?
and suggest that mowers are even more noisy. Though lawn edgers
and chain saws may have the same two-stroke engine as blowers, and
lawn mowers are just as loud or louder, and responsible for slightly
more hydrocarbon emissions per day than blowers, these machines
do not produce the same amount of fugitive dust. They are
not likely to be used for as long a time in a specific period of
time, and they are not used on wide expanses of hardscape.
While rakes and brooms can do the work of all blowers, and there
are options for non-polluting mowers, the edger tasks would seem
to be much more difficult to perform in any other way. We
recommend electric lawn edgers. ZAP is interested in hearing from
any experts in this regard.
To others, the issue is the inconsiderate, inappropriate, unnecessary
use of loud, polluting machines. This includes the problems
of noise, air quality, physical and mental health. These are
serious quality of life issues. Where the quality of life
declines, those who can, move. Those who cant or dont
choose to move, either work for legislation or become angry and
frustrated. Formerly friendly neighborhoods have tensions
not only among inhabitants themselves, but between residents and
landscape workers. Blowers are not used in Japan, where many
are designed and parts are made, because they are distressful.
Noise News (p.35 of 36) points
out that use of blowers is an irony: for the sake of a tidy
front yard, homeowners will shatter the peace of an entire neighborhood.
Noise is garbage and we should be as careful about where we put
it as we are about where we throw our candy wrappers. More.
Noise is more hurtful than litter. And, Noise is an
affliction, suffered by people who have no part in creating it.
The air into which noise is emitted is a commons, a
public good or resource that nobody owns.
For information on How Your Neighbors Feel and How
others feel about leaf blowers, go to the Manhattan
Beach, California ZAP website.
The use of two blowers at once on residential properties is increasing.
One persons blower diary shows up to eight exposure
incidents near their residence in a singe day. Another reports
loud blower use on three neighboring properties one day a week,
two another day, and one each day for another two days.
Experts believed there were nearly one million blowers in California
in 1999, and half of those were used in Los Angeles (99.10.2).
As the frequency of exposure has risen, so has resistance to blower
use. Restrictions on noise exist in townships and cities across
the nation. More and more of these municipalities are specifically
identifying lawn and garden equipment, including blowers, as contributors
to noise problems.